Unmarried parents must take different legal steps than married parents when dealing with child custody or parenting time. When the parents of a child are not married, signing the birth certificate does not entitle a parent to receive child support or specific rights to the child. Even when mothers and fathers agree on who is the father of their child, fathers must be judicially declared the legal father before having the right to custody or visitation. Until paternity is established, the father is legally without the rights and responsibilities of a parent.
There are a number of advantages related to establishing paternity for various members of the family:
- Child support for the child if the parents do not live together
- The right to make decisions such as education and medical care, for their child
- The right to seek custody, visitation and parenting time for the father and mother
- The right to claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes
- Access to various benefits such as medical insurance
- A sense of stability and inclusion in both families
The attorneys at Thilges & Bernhardt, Attorneys at Law, LLC will discuss various factors related to paternity and fathers' rights such as:
- Couples who are not married can acknowledge paternity on the birth certificate at the time the child is born through an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.
- It is possible to establish paternity later voluntarily, until the child is 18.
- Admitting to paternity gives a man the same rights and responsibilities as a biological father. If the father does not wish to establish paternity, the mother may have to commence a paternity case and child and potential father may need to submit to a DNA test.
- If a father is served with papers alleging paternity, he must respond within the timelines required.